The Independent publishes a travel guide for Cuba

The Independent publishes a travel guide for Cuba

The Independent publishes a travel guide for Cuba

 22 July 2022   The Independent

The renowned online newspaper The Independent recently published a travel guide for the fascinating Caribbean Island of Cuba. Penned by travel expert and Cubaphile Claire Boobbyer, the guide cites everything you should know before travelling to this unique island. It's much more than just the old cliches of old American cars, Che Guevara murals and long cigars. Read on and find out more!

Discovering Cuba beyond the stereotypes

If you've visited Cuba or know the nuances of the island well, it can be frustrating when people dismiss it as simply being famous for Che Guevara's "Viva la revolucion!" murals, old 1950s American cars, and enormous cigars. There's much more to Cuba than that, and it's well worth investigating.

Online newspaper The Independent and Cuba expert Claire Boobbyer have tried to address that by publishing an article for anyone considering Cuba as their next holiday destination, highlighting things that you really must know before landing in the "Pearl of the Caribbean".

Getting the essentials right

The first thing the article addresses is knowing when to visit Cuba. Sure, the soft white sandy beaches are a temptation all year round when you're imagining an exotic holiday, but as the article informs us, the Summer months can get pretty uncomfortable in the heat!

"Cuba is a great destination year round, but is insufferably hot in July and August (though the city of Santiago de Cuba hosts two riotous, musical festivals in July that are worth catching). November to April is high season, when the weather is glorious. Dozens of festivals and events are held in this period: music, dance, ballet, jazz, film, and art." - Claire Boobbyer

The best places to visit

It can be tough getting to see the whole island if you're only going to visit Cuba for one week. It's genuinely such a fascinating place, with so many things to see and do right across the island, that you'd only spend a few hours in each place before whizzing off to the next location, should you only have seven days.

A fortnight is a better period of time and will allow you to see further afield, taking in unforgettable experiences outside the obvious places like Havana and Varadero.

The Independent article makes an interesting list of "must-see" regions and cities to visit, and we agree with them, and then some!

Havana City

Clearly, Cuba's capital city heads the list, and it would be a strange trip to Cuba if you didn't see and experience Havana at all!

This has turned into one of the world's most iconic cities, and the whole atmosphere, the architecture, the history, the art, the food and drink and live music scenes, as well as the buzz, is just indescribable.

Everywhere you turn, there's something going on, and visitors could easily spend a whole seven days in Havana without doing everything.

"The Spanish grew rich on the back of the sugar and tobacco trade and poured their wealth into one of the finest cities in the Americas. As a result, Havana is gorgeous: rich colonial villas, decorated churches, flower-filled patios and mansions. Find its heart in the streets of the Old City, now vibrant with indie shops, bars, and cafés. Stroll the ocean promenade, the Malecón, and hail a chrome-festooned vintage motor to tour the castles on the bay and the leafy streets of villas and galleries of the Vedado neighbourhood. By night, seek out rooftop bars, art gallery openings, and bohemian nightlife spots across the city." - The Independent

More "must see" places in Cuba

As mentioned before, it's a minor crime to go to Cuba and just stay in one place. There are so many fascinating areas and regions right across the island.

The Independent article agrees and lists a whole host of other places that will captivate and enthral anyone lucky enough to visit.

On the west of the island, Vinales is an area of such outstanding natural beauty, it's a UNESCO heritage site, one of nine in Cuba. If you've never heard of a "mogote", you'll be delighted to see the small and strange limestone mountains jutting out of the landscape dating from the Jurassic period. We love Vinales, and exploring this blessed corner of Cuba is something we wholeheartedly recommend too.

Right across on the other side of the island, six hundred miles east of Havana, Baracoa is also unforgettable.

You can climb up "El Yunque" (the Anvil) mountain, trek jungle trails and bathe in crystal-clear lagoons to cool off, then sample some of Cuba's best cuisine down in the pretty town. We recommend trying "Pescado con Lechita", which consists of freshly caught fish served in a delightful coconut milk sauce. Just a few days ago, Lonely Planet selected their recommendation for finding and tasting some of Cuba's best dishes, and we were delighted to find "Pescado con Lechita" on their list.

Another place visitors to Cuba should see, and another UNESCO site incidentally, is Trinidad. It's said to be the best preserved colonial town in the whole of the Caribbean and you'll feel as though you've been transported back 500 years. So, make sure you pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes and get ready to experience the many reasons that make Trinidad a favourite place for all kinds of travellers.

"On the southern coast of Cuba, the tiny, cobbled streets of Trinidad spill down the foothills of the Escambray Mountains towards the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea. Trinidad is a photographer's and salsa dancer's dream. Huge mansions built by sugar barons are now galleries, museums, restaurants, and private homes. Find some of the most ridiculously pretty B&Bs in the country here. Dance the night away to live music and recover on the nearby Caribbean beach the following day." - The Independent

Still looking for more?

If miraculously, you've topped up your tan on the beaches and sampled the delights of Havana, Vinales Valley, Baracoa or Trinidad, there are still so many places to see.

The article mentions Santa Clara with its Che Guevara museum and recently named cultural hub of Cuba, second city Santiago de Cuba for its great museums and live music scene, and even tiny Caleton, for its stunning coastline and beautiful crystal waters.

Getting ready for "doing" Cuba

So now you know where to go. You've drawn up a long list of places to visit, things you want to see, and beaches where you want to swim. Great! But what else should you plan to harness that famous Cuban vibe?

Well, after a day sampling the numerous charms of this island, you'll need a place to rest your weary head, and as the article tells us, there are no better places than the renowned Cuban B&Bs, called "casas particulares". At Cuba Direct, we love them.

Sure, the big cities and beach resorts can offer 5-star luxury and chic mansions converted to boutique hotels where you'll want for nothing, but if you want authenticity, look no further than these family-run homes for your accommodation.

Often the cheapest option, you'll get excellent home-cooked Cuban food thrown in, usually prepared by the grandma in the kitchen!

"The Cuban families who host guests will be the stars of your stay. The photos of fabulous interiors will get a zillion likes on Instagram, but the memories of your warm, loquacious hosts with 101 gripping stories to tell will linger longer." - Claire Boobbyer

"Doing" Cuba also involved throwing yourself in at the deep end regarding crossing some things off your bucket list!

Make sure you take a ride in a classic car, and, as the article informs us, get a guided art tour. Cuba has a burgeoning art scene and if this makes you raise your eyebrows, here's why:

"One of the extraordinary hallmarks of Cuba's 1959 revolution was a huge investment in the arts. You'll find world-class art in Cuba, Havana especially, and a guided tour to the homes and studios of some of the best artists at work on the island is a fascinating introduction to the fertile arts' scene, and life in Cuba in general. Works from Cuba's living artists are found in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMa, and London's Tate." - The Independent

Dotting the I's and crossing the T's

Finally, the article offers some pretty useful advice on things like getting around saving money. The Viazul bus routes run right across the island and offer a cheap way of getting around if hiring a car is over your budget.

Lastly, to save some money, WiFi is available at public hotspots and accessible by scratch cards bought from telephone offices. Your best bet is to buy a Cuban SIM card, which can be bought online before you fly, and pick it up at Havana's international airport.

Talking about money, our best advice is to take Euros, which may seem strange, but you'll thank us for it.

Explaining how the currency works in Cuba is an exhausting topic best saved for another article, but to keep a long story short, it's better to pay for accommodation, restaurant meals, and private transport in Euros.

The Cuban Peso (CUP) is used to buy street food, museum entrances, local transport, and train transport. Change only a small amount of Euros into CUP on arrival.

Cuba is a nuanced, fascinating, vibrant and beautiful island. We're sure you'll have the holiday of a lifetime if you choose to visit the "Pearl of the Caribbean", taking on board this advice before you go!

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